The Killing of Lloyd Bhebhe
South African security guards are reported to have walked free despite shooting dead Lloyd Bhebhe, a 37-year-old Zimbabwean vendor who was trying to sell fruit in an Alberton North business complex on April 9th. Witnesses claim that two Community Protection Service (CPS) security officers shot Bhebhe in a hair salon, where he had sought shelter after being chased away from another store. He had an argument with one of the security guards about selling fruit at the complex.
According to his mother, Patricia Sibanga, Bhebhe was suffering from mental illness and had been battling depression for three years. He had lost his truck driver job and was struggling to claim money from his old employer. Sibanga said that her son did not deserve to die in such a brutal manner. “All he wanted was to earn a living to help look after his family.”
GroundUp reports that activists from the African Diaspora Workers Network and Zimbabwe Solidarity Network, family members, and friends of Bhebhe gathered in the street last week at the hair salon where Bhebhe was shot dead. People held up posters that read: “Justice for Lloyd.”
Police spokesperson in Ekurhuleni, Captain Neldah Sekgobela, confirmed that an inquest docket has been opened and the matter is still under investigation. The CPS officer’s statement has already been taken, but no arrest has been made.
Witnesses told GroundUp that Bhebhe was known in the community and often tried to sell his fruit inside shops where he was not allowed to go. According to another resident, Bhebhe often “quarrelled with security officers or business owners who did not understand that he was mentally ill. He meant no harm.”
Calls for Justice
The African Diaspora Workers Network demanded justice for Bhebhe’s killing and that the security officers be brought to book. “Lloyd was mentally challenged and eked out a living by selling fruits on the streets. Unfortunately, the perpetrators of this heinous crime simply walked away as if they had slaughtered a ‘wild animal’,” said chairperson Janet Munakamwe.
Tumelo Mogale of Lawyers for Human Rights said that they had been contacted by Bhebhe’s family to assist in following up on the case. LHR had been told that police were currently obtaining statements from witnesses, he said. “We also provided the officer with a list of witnesses.”
Bhebhe’s remains were repatriated to Zimbabwe with assistance from the Zimbabwe Solidarity Network. He is to be buried today.
Outrage and Heartbreak
Bhebhe is survived by his wife, their four young children aged between two and nine, his mother, and other relatives. His family lives in a shack at Station informal settlement in Alberton North. The killing has left them devastated and heartbroken.
The community is outraged that the security guards who shot Bhebhe have not been arrested. His killing has once again highlighted the plight of vulnerable people who struggle to earn a living in South Africa.